fortified enclaves, gated communities

Written by Donovan November 21, 2012 Category: Asia, Singapore Comments

interesting read on gated communities.

«São Paulo is today a city of walls. Physical barriers have been constructed everywhere—around houses, apartment buildings, parks, squares, office complexes, and schools. Apartment buildings and houses which used to be connected to the street by gardens are now everywhere separated by high fences and walls, and guarded by electronic devices and armed security men. The new additions frequently look odd because they were improvised in spaces conceived without them, spaces designed to be open. However, these barriers are now fully integrated into new projects for individual houses, apartment buildings, shopping areas, and work spaces. A new aesthetics of security shapes all types of constructions and imposes its new logic of surveillance and distance as a means for displaying status, and is changing the character of public life and public interactions…
Closed condominiums are supposed to be separate worlds. Their advertisements propose a ‘total way of life’ which would represent an alternative to the quality of life offered by the city and its deteriorated public space. The ads suggest the possibility of constructing a world clearly distinguishable from the surrounding city: a life of total calm and security. Condominiums are distant, but they are supposed to be as independent and complete as possible to compensate for it; thus the emphasis on the common facilities they are supposed to have which transform them into sophisticated clubs. In these ads, the facilities promised inside of closed condominiums seem to be unlimited—from drugstores to tanning rooms, from bars and saunas to ballet rooms, from swimming pools to libraries..
The middle and upper classes are creating their dream of independence and freedom—both from the city and its mixture of classes, and from everyday domestic tasks—on the basis of services from working-class people. They give guns to badly paid working-class guards to control their own movement in and out of their condominiums. They ask their badly paid ‘office-boys’ to solve all their bureaucratic problems, from paying their bills and standing in all types of lines to transporting incredible sums of money. They also ask their badly paid maids—who often live in the favelas on the other side of the condominium’s wall—to wash and iron their clothes, make their beds, buy and prepare their food, and frequently care for their children all day long. In a context of increased fear of crime in which the poor are often associated with criminality, the upper classes fear contact and contamination, but they continue to depend on their servants. They can only be anxious about creating the most effective way of controlling these servants, with whom they have such ambiguous relationships of dependency and avoidance, intimacy and distrust.
Another feature of closed condominiums is isolation and distance from the city, a fact which is presented as offering the possibility of a better lifestyle. The latter is expressed, for example, by the location of the development in ‘nature’ (green areas, parks, lakes), and in the use of phrases inspired by ecological discourses. However, it is clear in the advertisements that isolation means separation from those considered to be socially inferior, and that the key factor to assure this is security. This means fences and walls surrounding the condominium, guards on duty twenty-four hours a day controlling the entrances, and an array of facilities and services to ensure security—guardhouses with bathrooms and telephones, double doors in the garage, and armed guards patrolling the internal streets. ‘Total security’ is crucial to ‘the new concept of residence.’ Security and control are the conditions for keeping the others out, for assuring not only isolation but also ‘happiness,’ ‘harmony,’ and even ‘freedom.’ In sum, to relate security exclusively to crime is to fail to recognize all the meanings it is acquiring in various types of environments. The new systems of security not only provide protection from crime, but also create segregated spaces in which the practice of exclusion is carefully and rigorously exercised…


The characteristics of the Paulista enclaves which make their segregationist intentions viable may be summarized in four points. First, they use two instruments in order to create explicit separation: on the one hand, physical dividers such as fences and walls; on the other, large empty spaces creating distance and discouraging pedestrian circulation. Second, as if walls and distances were not enough, separation is guaranteed by private security systems: control and surveillance are conditions for internal social homogeneity and isolation. Third, the enclaves are private universes turned inwards with designs and organization making no gestures towards the street. Fourth, the enclaves aim at being independent worlds which proscribe an exterior life, evaluated in negative terms. The enclaves are not subordinate either to public streets or to surrounding buildings and institutions. In other words, the relationship they establish with the rest of the city and its public life is one of avoidance: they turn their backs on them. Therefore, public streets become spaces for élite’s circulation by car and for poor people’s circulation by foot or public transportation. To walk on the public street is becoming a sign of class in many cities, an activity that the elite is abandoning. No longer using streets as spaces of sociability, the élite now want to prevent street life from entering their enclaves. »
Source: Caldeira, 1996, pp.307–14

La peur est le commencement de la sagesse.

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